12 October 2012

Recycle Your Food!

Chicken & Turkey Broths
Making stocks and broths is the best way to squeeze out all you can for your dollar. I have made it a habit to save all vegetable skins, ends, peelings, and small amounts that won't be eaten before spoiling. Really think about anything you would normally toss out—carrot tops, broccoli stems, onion and garlic skins, potatoes peelings, etc. I keep a bin in the freezer and just add to it.
I also store meat bones in the freezer. Just toss them in a bag and label until you have enough for a proper batch. These also come in handy when cooking beans or greens. We like meat in everything down here. (If you don't believe me, just ask what vegan items they have at Cracker Barrel.) You can use raw or already cooked. Leave the meat on or not. I love roasting poultry stuffed with onions and celery in the cavity. After I've picked the bones clean, the whole carcass gets tossed in the pot, so I get double duty out of those aromatics.
I was able to laugh at myself when my husband gave me a sideways glance during an episode of Portlandia. “We can pickle that!” became another tagline, along with “Just whipstitch it.” But that's another post...
When I have enough bones and/or veggie scraps saved in the freezer, I dump it in the pot and fill with water. I don't really measure anything. Think of it as tea; steep to your desired strength. I refrain from adding herbs or salt, as I prefer to save that for when I'm actually cooking with it. You can use a slow cooker on low overnight or simmer for a few hours on the stove. I recently began reducing my broth to save on shelf space. I remove the lid and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. If needed, you can thin it out with water.
I used to freeze stock in quart-sized baggies. Lay them on their sides in a pan until frozen solid. This thin shape thaws much quicker and is easier to store. Or freeze in an ice cube tray, then transfer to a large baggie. This is perfect for adding just a bit to sauces. Now, I can it. I find it easier as there's no thawing. Quarts process for 25 minutes at 10 pounds in the pressure canner.
Wait! Don't throw it out. Once you have taken care of the broth, the leftover veggies can go to the composter or a worm bin when cooled, or out to the animals if you have them. However, cooked bones should not be eaten by animals, as they may splinter and cause tears or punctures.
Now that you have stock, what do you do with it? Lots of things! With fall around the corner, I'll be making lots of soups and stews. Replace or cut your water with it for more flavor in your rice. Make savory mashed potatoes. Dressing and stuffing. Perfect in gravy. Roasting liquid. Marinates.
Making stock is a great use of your food “waste” and an essential staple in the kitchen. Really, it's the ultimate way to recycle food.


Now is the time to savor apples and pears. Last year, I took advantage of local pears sold at our grocery store for $1/lb. I made pear butter, spiced with ginger and nutmeg, which goes great with pork and chicken. This year, I wanted to try apple butter. I'm simply nuts about apple butter and pumpkin butter. I cannot not try it when available.
Applesauce & Apple Butters
A new friend from work mentioned that she makes applesauce every year. We decided to join forces. This really is the best set up. You have someone to share the work and cost, and you get some quality time in as well. While working through batches, we looked at family photos, enjoyed tamales and margaritas, and swapped stories. I've only done a couple canning projects with friends, but so far they have taken at least 8 hrs no matter how much you are making. Make sure you have a full day to get everything done. When I'm on my own, I can easily check on things in between loads of laundry or Portal tests.
She found a great deal from a local orchard. We purchased slightly more than 100lbs for $78. It was a mixture of Red Delicious, Mutsu, and Rome. Out of that amount, we made 26 quarts. I got 5 half-pints of apple butter from 3 quarts of applesauce. You can easily see how this is not very productive or cost effective. Quarts of applesauce came to $3; apple butter costs $3.75. This is only counting for the apples and no sugar or spices, which would add only pennies anyway. The only supply costs we had were lids at about $6.
Two different batches; the one on the right was cooked longer.
While I had a blast doing it, and my apple butter is damn good, I don't think I'll be repeating this next year. Sadly, both kids vetoed the applesauce, so all of it is going towards apple butter. Now, if I can score on some quality apples or pre-made applesauce, I'll be adding to the shelf. Sometimes you can find “seconds,” imperfect apples with minor flaws, for an even better deal. Growing up, a neighbor had an apple tree that was pre-existing, and they did not even use them. I remember the Barefoot Farmer gathering apples that had fallen by the road that would otherwise rot. It never hurts to ask or get creative! Many orchards provide pick-your-own prices. This is a great idea for families, as everyone can be involved. One day, I would love to have some apple trees of my own. Then I could make cider, too!
It was definitely worth the experience, and nothing comes close to the taste. You can actually smell the blossoms and almost feel the fall breeze dancing through the branches.

  1. Rinse apples. Peel if not using a mill.
  2. Cut into 1” chunks. And place over medium heat in a pot.
  3. Add sugar to taste and a pinch of salt. You may also add spices if desired. Add ¼ cup water if necessary so that the apples don't scorch on the bottom.
  4. Once the apples start to break down, ladle into your mill or processor. You may use a blender if you want a smoother product.
  5. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars and process in a water bath for 20 minutes.
  6. If making apple butter, return sauce to low heat until desired thickness is achieved. (I cooked mine for 2 days on low in the crock pot.) Process in water bath for 20 minutes.

Canning: For Beginners

If you are new to canning and not sure if it's your cup of tea, I'd recommend picking up a couple essential tools and try a simple jelly. No need to make a big purchase. I found some ideas on how to make your own tools, but I highly recommend purchasing or borrowing a jar lifter. They run about $4 new, so it's not a big investment. Some sort of rack is essential, but everything else is optional. Ball even has a “Discovering Canning Kit” if you want a no-brainer option. You can find secondhand jars through thrift stores, yard sales, and craigslist. (Availability tends to be better during the winter and beginning of spring.) You must use mason jars; others will break. New lids must be used every time, but rings are reusable. New jars come with lids and rings, and run no more than $10 for a dozen, depending on the size.
A couple definitions: headspace refers to the distance from the rim of the jar to the food. Processing time begins when the water has reached a full, rolling boil, or when the correct pounds of pressure is reached if pressure canning. Pectin comes either powdered or liquid, and they are not interchangeable. They can be found by the canning supplies or in the baking aisle, along with flour and sugar. The general expiration for home-canned goods is one year.
I have used this fruit juice jelly recipe several times to make cranberry, grape, and apple jellies. (I bet adding a stick of cinnamon to apple would be great this time of year!) If you enjoy breakfast or a PB&J, then it will go fast, and it is very simple to make.

4 cups unsweetened juice (cranberry, apple, grape, orange, or a combination)
¼ cup lemon juice
1 1.75oz powdered fruit pectin
4 ½ cups sugar

  1. Combine juices and pectin in a pot. Let stand for 2 minutes, then stir to dissolve.
  2. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring frequently.
  3. Add sugar and return to a rolling boil, stirring often.
  4. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  5. Remove from heat. Skim off foam with a spoon.
  6. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars. Leave ¼ inch headspace.
  7. Top with lids and rings. Process for 5 minutes.
  8. Carefully remove from pot and let cool. (Use a cooling rack or place a towel on the counter to avoid heat shock.) Label and store in a dark, cool place.
Cranberry & Grape Jellies